Despite the coronavirus’s crushing impact on the hotel industry—along with travel as a whole—this year has nonetheless welcomed a host of new properties deserving of your attention. From the beaches of Johor to the neon-lit streets of Tokyo, here are our picks of the most exciting hotels and resorts to open in Asia since the pandemic began—places to set your sights on when it’s safe to travel again.
Southeast Asia’s first One&Only property occupies a prime beachfront location at Desaru Coast, a recently revived holiday enclave on the southeast shores of the Malay Peninsula. With a clean-lined tropical aesthetic that draws on Malaysia’s kampong (village) vernacular, it’s a dazzling achievement by Singapore-based Kerry Hill Architects, which continues its late founder’s celebrated brand of sitesensitive modernism. The resort debuted in September as the most exclusive address on the coast, with just 44 suites and a four-bedroom villa. Surrounded by 51 hectares of wild tropical flora, dining options range from contemporary Japanese to Mediterranean and Malaysian, while the spa, by Swiss-based wellness firm Chenot, blends scientific diagnostics with traditional Chinese and alternative medicines. Another draw? A one-anda-half-kilometer stretch of pristine beach overlooking the South China Sea. oneandonlyresorts.com/desaru-coast; doubles from US$978
The latest in a string of luxury hotel openings in Kyoto debuted in November directly opposite Nijo Castle. Part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, The Mitsui contains 161 tea room–inspired rooms and suites designed by Hong Kong–based André Fu, who is also responsible for the subdued elegance of the lobby. For the restaurants, which include a French-Japanese teppan experience and an all-day Italian dining room, the hotel turned to Super Potato alum Yohei Akao. His touch is evident in the spa, too, a cavernous subterranean space with rock-hewn walls, a communal onsen (hot-spring) bath, and a pine-framed corridor designed to evoke the rows of torii gates at Kyoto’s iconic Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. hotelthemitsui.com; doubles from US$914
The views alone will make you swoon. Banyan Tree’s latest opening in Thailand is nestled on the Krabi coast at the doorstep to Khao Ngon Nak National Park, a perch that overlooks the karst-studded waters of Phang Nga Bay. A dramatic hillside lobby is positioned to make the most of the scenery, as are the 72 tropical-chic suites and villas, each of which comes with its own saltwater plunge pool. A rain forest–themed spa pavilion complements the lush surrounds, as do the ponds, canals, and waterfalls that have been landscaped into the sloping grounds. And right on the beach, Kredkaew Bar promises the perfect spot for sundowners. banyantree.com; doubles from US$330
Sun, sand, and overwater villas are pretty much par for the course in the Maldives. Where Kagi distinguishes itself is in its wellness offerings. The focal point of the 50-villa resort is Baani Spa, an oval structure stilted above the lagoon; here, Reiki, crystal healing, and sound therapy complement an extensive range of beauty and massage treatments alongside anti-ageing products by California-based skincare brand Epicuren Discovery. For sybarites of a different disposition, the menu at Kagi’s signature restaurant, Ke-Un, spans the Pacific Rim, with dishes from Hawaii, Japan, and Peru. kagimaldives.com; doubles from US$550
Opened in July, the 16-story Zentis is the debut property of its namesake brand by the Tokyo-based Palace Hotel Group. Tara Bernerd, a protégé of Philippe Starck, has created utterly inviting interiors that lean industrial-chic but with a Japanese sensibility; she looked to the modular design of bento boxes to create efficient layouts for the hotel’s 212 rooms. (The 57-square-meter corner suites are the ones to book.) On the second floor, hefty timber beams appear to float from the ceiling of the double-height lounge at Upstairz, a 116-seat eatery with an outdoor terrace, bar, and restaurant whose menus are the work of Shinya Otsuchihashi—the chef behind one-Michelin-starred Craftale in Tokyo. zentishotels.com; doubles from US$176
The first Asian outpost of Accor’s design-led Mondrian brand channels the appeal of Itaewon, Seoul’s international district, in its pop-art installations and dining venues. Cleo, the signature Mediterranean restaurant, dishes up mezze, souvlaki, and couscous, while Rumpus Room offers high tea and classic cocktails. As most of the 296 rooms are compact, it’s the public spaces that are the biggest draw. The 25-meter indoor pool is fitted with quirky mood lighting; warmer months see guests gravitate toward the open-air Altitude Pool & Lounge, where daybeds, a poolside bar, and live DJs complete the picture. sbe.com/hotels/mondrian; doubles from US$123
The fifth venture by family-owned Zannier Hotels adheres to the same philosophy that has made its far-flung sister properties—a 12-suite retreat in the French Alps, Siem Reap’s Phum Baitang, a pair of Namibian safari lodges—such a hit: simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Taking its design cues from the vernacular traditions of south-central Vietnam, Bãi San Hô comprises 71 villas (all with pools) built in the style of local village houses using age-old techniques and indigenous materials. Supremely cozy, they feature rough woodwork, walls of cob (a mixture of clay, sand, and straw), and wovengrass ceilings accented by homespun linens and artfully positioned handicrafts. Stilted above a rice paddy, Bà Hai, the Vietnamese restaurant, is topped by a towering thatched roof that pays tribute to the communal houses of the Bahnar hill people. The setting, as with all Zannier hotels, is equally sublime—the 98-hectare property sits on a secluded peninsula in Phu Yen province, just down the coast from Quy Nhon. Some villas are perched on a hillside, some overlook rice fields, while others are set right on a private white-sand beach. Add in a hammam-equipped spa and solid sustainability credentials, and you might just have the perfect retreat. zannierhotels.com; doubles from US$310
Occupying the uppermost levels of a 39-story skyscraper in the Otemachi financial district—and just a short drive from sister property Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi—this elegant addition to Tokyo’s luxe hospitality scene welcomed its first guests in September. Jaw-dropping panoramas of the city skyline and the Imperial Palace gardens abound; these are best enjoyed from the terrace of all-day Italian restaurant Pigneto. The same vistas can be had from most of the 190 rooms and suites, which were designed by none other than Jean-Michel Gathy. At the top-floor spa, a post-treatment Japanese bathing experience also comes with sky-high views. fourseasons.com/otemachi; doubles from US$556
An hour’s drive up the coast from Zannier’s Bãi San Hô property, Maia is the latest opening from Vietnam’s wellness-centric Fusion Hotel Group. Situated on a quiet stretch of golden sand overlooking Quy Nhon Bay, its 32 flat-roofed villas sport crisp lines and pops of sea-inspired color; many come with garden-fringed plunge pools and outdoor daybeds. The centerpiece of the resort is VI, a glass-walled restaurant (pictured here) that establishes Maia’s culinary credentials. An extensive menu ranges from international classics to Southeast Asian specialties, with an emphasis on the area’s excellent seafood: wok-fried tiger prawns, tamarind-garlic squid, and goi cuon ca mai (cured-herring spring rolls). A seaside spa set to open before the end of the year rounds out the picture. quynhon.maiaresorts.com; doubles from US$154
Nikko, in the mountains north of Tokyo, has long been revered for its shrines, temples, and scenic beauty. But it’s never had a hotel like this. Overlooking the shimmering expanse of Lake Chuzenji, The Ritz-Carlton is the area’s first international luxury property, offering 94 light-filled rooms and suites replete with balconies, stone-clad soaking tubs, and subdued tones of ivory and pale wood. It’s also the first Ritz-Carlton to feature authentic onsen baths, not to mention an activities menu that takes full advantage of the natural surrounds of Nikko National Park. Cycling through protected marshlands, meditating under waterfalls, and packrafting on the lake are just some of the options that await. ritzcarlton.com; doubles from US$770
A design-centric addition to Bangkok’s Langsuan neighborhood, the Kimpton Maa-Lai styles itself as a “blend of tropical hideout and artist’s loft.” This translates into an art gallery–like lobby, 231 guest rooms stocked with yoga mats and bathroom amenities by Thai skincare brand Harnn, a pet-friendly café serving artisanal coffee, and a gamut of thoughtfully conceived restaurants and bars including Stock.Room, a “groserant” that also hosts chef- and mixologist-led learning studios. Guests can book in-room spa treatments, but they won’t want to miss out on a visit to the gorgeous Amaranth Spa. Try the muscle-melting Lumpini Fighting Massage, a vigorous pressure-point therapy inspired by the movements of Muay Thai. kimptonmaalaibangkok.com; doubles from US$300
International hotel brands have typically passed over the onetime imperial capital of Nara for its splashier neighbors Kyoto and Osaka. No longer. July saw the opening of Japan’s first JW Marriott hotel in a six-story building beside the Nara Convention Center. Here, global design firm GA Group translated the warmth of traditional Japanese homes into sleek, contemporary interiors. Playful references to the famous sika deer of Nara Park are scattered throughout the hotel’s public spaces and 158 rooms, all of which come with king-size Simmons beds and bath amenities by UK brand Aromatherapy Associates. Downstairs, guests can linger at the cozy Flying Stag lobby lounge or tuck into teppanyaki or kaiseki meals at Azekura. Other facilities include all-day restaurant Silk Road Dining, an indoor pool and gym, and, for those fatigued from a day of sightseeing (Nara is home to several temples, shrines, and ruins, including the second-tallest pagoda in Japan), there’s Spa by JW, where massages are delivered in timber- and stone-clad treatment rooms. marriott.com; doubles from US$385
Perched right beside the Chao Phraya River, this sophisticated retreat of 101 suites and villas has turned heads thanks to its Verandah rooms—each one features a river-facing terrace with a Jacuzzi plunge pool and cabana—and lineup of dining venues. These include Côte by Mauro Colagreco, whose menu is courtesy of the acclaimed chef behind three-Michelin-starred Mirazur on the French Riviera; and Phra Nakhon, which serves up authentic Thai cuisine and globetrotting breakfast fare (unagi Benedict, anyone?). Be sure to book an insider tour of the surrounding Charoen Krung neighborhood through the in-house Capella Culturists. capellahotels.com/bangkok; doubles from US$576
New York–based architecture studio Kohn Pedersen Fox took its cues from the Ming-era mansions of Suzhou for inspiration when it came to creating the city’s months-old, 178-room Park Hyatt, whose public spaces fan out around a koi pond dotted with penjing (Chinese bonsai) trees. Interiors styled by Hirsch Bedner Associates combine the elegance expected of the brand with an unmistakable sense of place: murals in the double-height Living Room lounge nod to Qing panoramic handscroll paintings, while mirrors shaped like crab apple blossoms recall the windows found in the classical gardens of Suzhou’s Old Town, a 30-minute drive away. hyatt.com; doubles from US$275
Intimacy is the name of the game at the Raffles brand’s second Indonesian outpost, which soft-opened in July with 32 pool villas spread across a sloping site above southern Bali’s Jimbaran Bay. Every villa here measures at least 470 square meters, and is looked after by a Wellbeing Butler. At the highest point of the property, you’ll find Rumari restaurant, where chefs give Balinese dishes a modern twist, while Loloan Beach Bar & Grill is just the place to enjoy fresh seafood after laps in its 25-meter infinity pool. For sundowners, you can’t go wrong with the breezy Writers Bar—a staple at just about every Raffles hotel. raffles.com/bali; villas from US$1,038
All photos courtesy of their respective properties.
This article originally appeared in the December 2020/February 2021 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“The New Wave”).